Health care works in tandem with technology to improve and save lives
The health care industry is no stranger to technological innovation. Technology can save lives, so the sector is quick to embrace new devices, services and ideas. This has been true of the medical industry for much of history, but recent health care advances have been happening on an unprecedented scale.
Technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT) have skyrocketed in the last few years. True to its history of rapid tech adoption, the medical industry embraced these advances faster than many other sectors. Now, they’re so widespread they’re disrupting the entire medical field.
Here are five ways in which modern technology is revolutionizing health care.
1. Increasing Access to Care
One of the most disruptive recent health care technology trends is telehealth. These systems, which use IoT and cloud technologies to let doctors meet with patients remotely, rapidly expanded amid the COVID-19 pandemic. In April 2020, these services accounted for 32% of office and outpatient visits, a 38-fold increase over pre-pandemic levels.
The primary advantage of telehealth is that it expands people’s access to medical care. Virtual doctor’s visits let patients who may not be able to travel seek medical advice. Since telehealth visits remove the need for waiting rooms, even highly busy people can now have time for appointments.
IoT-powered robotics can take telehealth even further, letting doctors perform delicate surgeries miles away from their patients. These remotely controlled robots allow patients to receive care from the world’s top surgeons, regardless of the distance between them.
2. Improving Efficiency
Recent health care advances in technology also make the industry more efficient. Electronic health records (EHRs) reduce the time it takes to file and send patient information by digitizing records. In an industry where time savings can equal saved lives, these improvements are critical.
Healthcare automation is one of the most helpful tools for improving healthcare efficiency. Facilities can use chatbots to automate outpatient care calls, providing support while freeing staff to address other, more time-sensitive issues. Similarly, software robots can automate administrative tasks like data entry, letting doctors and nurses spend more time with patients.
Recent advances in AI have even made it possible for machines to provide preliminary diagnoses. In one study, an AI algorithm proved more accurate than six radiologists in determining the risk of lung cancer. These systems could enable faster, more accurate diagnoses, leading doctors, nurses, or other electronic diagnostic healthcare team members like ekg technicians to provide needed treatments sooner. This would have the benefit of lowering the cost of medical bills and treatment since more procedures could be done by non-physicians and aided by certified medical technicians.
3. Lowering Costs
Cutting-edge technologies are typically associated with expense, but they can help lower costs over time. Perhaps more importantly for health care applications, new systems can make care affordable for patients. Considering how high prices have historically prevented some people from making appointments, these advancements could be life-saving.
Studies have shown that telemedicine can save between $19 and $121 per visit, leading to dramatic savings for patients with chronic conditions. Since telehealth enables easier checkups, it may also prevent unnecessary emergency room visits, further reducing costs. Additionally, it can reduce related expenses like gas and parking that would come with a traditional hospital visit.
Health care technologies also lower costs for medical organizations. Shifting from paper records to EHRs can save $5.14 per patient per month. For a large hospital, those seemingly small savings amount to a considerable amount of money over time.
4. Enabling Hyper-Personalization
New technologies have led to a trend of hyper-personalization in many industries, and health care is no different. As data collection and analysis tools have improved, they’ve enabled professionals to take a personalized approach to care. These patient-specific treatments can prevent complications and lead to more effective care.
For example, doctors can examine a patient’s DNA to predict how they’ll respond to different medications. They can then prescribe the most effective drug for that particular patient. These predictions can also help avoid prescribing anything a patient may be allergic to.
Technologies like machine learning make this level of personalization possible. Predictive analytics engines can take data like a patient’s medical history and use it to model multiple future outcomes accurately. This process can take as little as a few minutes, and as these algorithms work more, they’ll become faster.
5. Accelerating Research
Recent health care advances also enable faster, more accurate medical research. Perhaps the most notable example of this is predictive analytics in vaccine research. Advanced AI algorithms can model how virus strains interact with different compounds, finding potential vaccine candidates without expensive, time-consuming real-world tests.
This approach to drug discovery gained prominence at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Pfizer relied on AI to accelerate and guide its clinical trials, helping it deliver its vaccine in less than a year, far quicker than most vaccine timelines.
With AI accelerating their research, health care organizations can create low-cost treatments in record time. The world’s medical authorities will be able to stop medical crises sooner, even preventing future pandemics.
Health Care Technology Fixes Long-Standing Issues
Factors like high costs, inaccessibility and time-consuming processes have plagued the medical industry for years. Today’s health care technology provides the means to finally move past these obstacles, creating a healthier future. As the adoption of these technologies rises, medical care will become more affordable, accessible, efficient and effective.
Emily Newton is the Editor-in-Chief of Revolutionized, a magazine exploring how innovations change our world. She has over four years experience writing articles in the industrial and tech sectors.